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Czech Interior Minister suing City of Prague over opinion on gallows at demonstration

29.5.2016 10:52
Milan Chovanec, Czech Interior Minister, on an anti-immigrant demonstration held in Prague in 2015:
Milan Chovanec, Czech Interior Minister, on an anti-immigrant demonstration held in Prague in 2015: "Gallows have no place in a democracy, the police, as an organ of a democratic state, must be aware of that." (Collage: Romea.cz)

 The Office of the Municipal Department of Prague 1 did not make an error when it failed to assess the presence of a mock-up of a gallows during a demonstration against migration last year as constituting a misdemeanor, according to Prague City Hall, which has now reviewed the appeal of that Prague 1 decision filed by Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD), who says he will now file an administrative lawsuit over City Hall's decision. Chovanec says he believes threatening people with a gallows in public must not be allowed to be considered legal.

Carrying a gallows to a demonstration and publicly threatening anybody in the Czech Republic with it, in the view of the Interior Minister, crosses the line on freedom of speech. He believes such behavior should be assessed as a misdemeanor at the very least.

Chovanec announced his plans in a press release. The incident happened in the center of Prague last July, when several hundred people were protesting against immigration and the refugee resettlement quotas proposed by the EU.

Some demonstrators brought mock-ups of gallows with them, inscribed with "For Treason", which they believed some Czech politicians had committed through their actions on those issues. "I cannot identify with this argument [of City Hall], especially at a time when extremists are radicalizing and are not hesitating to use violence. On the basis of the opinions and recommendations of the Interior Ministry's legislative experts, therefore, I will file an administrative lawsuit against this decision by the City of Prague," the Interior Minister's press release reads.

Chovanec also mentioned that the Prague 1 authorities based their decision solely on assessing the testimony of the suspects involved. He believes the administrative bodies never attempted to sufficiently ascertain what the actual state of affairs was with respect to the incident.

The Interior Ministry said it would now be familiarizing itself with Prague City Hall's justifications of its decision in more detail once it has obtained the written judgment. In a related court case, Judge Jarmila Löffelmannová also referenced the seriousness of the presence of the gallows during the public event.

Earlier this month the judge handed down a decision acquitting activist Kateřina Krejčová, who had counter-protested that particular demonstration against Islam and migration, of allegedly assaulting a police officer during those events. When handing down her verdict, the judge said it had been unfair of the lower court to punish Krejčová for sitting on the sidewalk to block the demonstration when police officers had ignored the much more serous criminal activity being perpetrated by the demonstrators whom the activist was counter-protesting.

The judge also criticized the decision by the Czech Police's own internal audit office, which ruled that it had not been a felony for the demonstrators to threaten people with the gallows during the public event. Krejčová (age 30) and a small group of other people counter-protested because they wanted to express their disagreement with the demonstration against immigration and refugee reception quotas.

According to the indictment, of which she was later acquitted, Krejčová allegedly assaulted a police officer after he knelt on top of her boyfriend as he was prone on the ground, knocking one of his teeth out. According to the final verdict of the Prague Municipal Court, however, that incident did not constitute an attack because the activist was incapable of causing the police officer any harm.

Krejčová is now suing the District Directorate of Police for Prague 1 and the Regional Directorate of the Prague Police over the incident. That case will come to trial on 15 June.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Tags:  

Extremism, Milan Chovanec, Ministerstvo vnitra, refugee, Trial, Xenophobia



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